Hunters Will Get Their Endangered Rhino Trophies, Thanks to Government Approval

While conservationists around the world are calling for increased efforts to save dwindling rhino populations from disappearing, the federal government just approved permits to bring two sport-hunted trophies the U.S.

The permits were granted to two trophy hunters who spent a lot of money to kill critically endangered black rhinos in Namibia. One hunter was lesser known, but the other caused international outrage after dropping $350,000 in an auction held by the Dallas Safari Club last year for the chance to kill one of these rare and iconic animals.

In the 1960s, there were an estimated 70,000 black rhinos, but today their numbers have dropped to fewer than 5,000 as a result of hunting and poaching. Even though black rhinos are protected under the Endangered Species Act and CITES, which prohibits international trade of protected species, some claim that trophy hunting is the best way forward when it comes to incentives to protect imperiled species.

Namibia’s conservation plan now allows for the “harvest” of five males every year. Supporters of the hunt argue that they’ve already spread their genes, and now they’re big old jerks who can potentially interfere with younger bulls trying to breed – although the risks to other rhinos and benefits of removing an old bull have both been disputed.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said in a statement it approved the trophies because it believes Namibia has a solid management plan, and the two trophies will bring in a total of $550,000 for wildlife conservation, anti-poaching efforts and community development programs in Namibia.

“The future of Africa’s wildlife is threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade, not responsible, scientifically managed sport hunting,” said FWS Director Dan Ashe. “We remain committed to combating heinous wildlife crimes while supporting activities that empower and encourage local communities to be a part of the solution.”

The double speak and permit approval has drawn criticism from conservationists around the world who continue to argue that there is nothing about sport hunting, or killing imperiled animals, that supports true in situ conservation efforts. According to the FWS, the public comment period drew a slew of opposition with 15,000 individual comments and more than 135,000 petition signatures. Still, the agency continues to argue that sport hunting will benefit the species.

“United States citizens make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa,” said Ashe. “That gives us a powerful tool to support countries that are managing wildlife populations in a sustainable manner and incentivize others to strengthen their conservation and management programs.”

Will it? As others have continued to argue, putting a price tag on the head of an animal that makes it more valuable dead than alive is a dangerous move, especially considering how hard wildlife advocates have been fighting to stop poachers from doing just that. Rhinos have long had a target on their backs because of the value their horns have on the black market.

At the same time condemning the killing for use in traditional Asian medicine, or otherwise, while simultaneously applauding some rich, entitled U.S. guy who wants to kill one for fun and a trophy, is an epic logic fail.

In an open letter to the hunter in question written last year, Raabia Hawa, an honorary game warden with Kenya Wildlife Service and founder Walk With Rangers, kindly puts him and the whole idea to shame:

Please sir, I plead with you to understand what we are facing. Exactly a year and some days ago now, my colleague and good friend was shot by poachers. He stood right in between a rhino they were targeting. He took the bullet for the rhino. He didn’t ask its age, he didn’t ask if it was a breeding bull, he didn’t ask if it was male or female, white or black. He just saw poachers, and a rhino, and did what he knew he had to do. THAT, kind sir, is true conservation, management and protection that will ensure the survival of our precious rhino species…

Sir, we on the field do not understand the logic in this matter. For us, every single one is absolutely critical to the survival of the species, to the sustainable development of the ecosystem they are a part of, and most of all, to the well being and protection of our culture and heritage.

Namibia will still issue its permits, and someone else may pull the trigger, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. has to be complicit in supporting the death of individual animals from a species on the brink that wildlife officials claim to be protecting.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

140 comments

Mark Donner
Mark D1 years ago

Namibia sports a vicious massacre of seal populations much like the corrupt hated government of Canada. Namibia has a highly corrupt, tyrannical and criminal government. Exactly the kind of people that the FWS likes to deal with

SEND
Dale Williams
Dale Williams2 years ago

Derek S here is some unemotional information you should read

SEND
Dale Williams
Dale Williams2 years ago

Derek S here is some unemotional information you should read
http://www.ifaw.org/sites/default/files/Ecolarge-2013-200m-question.pdf

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Derek S.
Derek Schneider2 years ago

help vitalize the local economy which will aid in lowering the risk of poaching. The animal is also harvested, with all the meat being distributed to local communities. If you don't believe this works...please search the success found in African nations that have regulated and allowed hunting. By making these animals available for hunters, and giving them a monetary value, they have literally saved the African wildlife in these countries. Herd sizes in countries that allow hunting and utilize proven conservation methods are at all time highs...for all species. This could be the same for the rhino...if people didn't spend a ton of money fighting against them by lobbying to end these extremely rare hunts with no other solution in place.

SEND
Derek S.
Derek Schneider2 years ago

Please feel free to actually investigate these practices before condemning them out of sheer emotion and not out of the reality of conservation science. The use of very limited, deliberate hunting of these animals not only raises revenue, but helps the herd proliferate. The animals that have been targeted by these hunts are males that are past breeding age. They are not contributing to growing the population. These male rhinos also actively attack, and often kill, younger males that are of breeding age. This has a negative effect on the population of an already critically endangered species by reducing the population directly (by killing the younger males) and indirectly through reducing breeding success. These animals would typically (and have been in the past) been targeted by rangers at these parks in an attempt to help the herds thrive. By auctioning this opportunity to the highest bidder, and allowing that hunter to bring the trophy home...they are providing a huge amount of monetary resource to the local preserve. The biggest detriment to the rhino population is not the legal international hunters who take one or two animals per year...its the local poachers who risk their lives to kill a rhino solely for its horn...so they can make a small amount of money selling them to brokers for trade, mostly to Asia. By creating a commodity from these older animals that need to be culled...money is provided to increase protection from poaching. This money is also used to

SEND
Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the useful information.

SEND
Nikki Davey
Nikki D2 years ago

This is so hypocritical. The trophies should be destroyed and their owners shot and mounted instead.

SEND
Suzana Megles
Suzana M2 years ago

What do I think of the US Wildlife Service? Not much. It seems that they are always walking lock step with the hunters. There is no concern for the wildlife they are suppose to protect.

SEND
Liliya Gianelli
Liliya Gianelli2 years ago

Looks like the politicians ( and those blinkin hunters) have two stones, one where the heart should be and the other replacing the brain. That must be heavy....poor things...

SEND